I have been looking for a short-when-packed, light tripod with a video head for a long time. Strong enough to take by Sony AX33 camcorder or even one of my Nikon DSLRs, it would be my tripod of choice when travelling without the telescope and Gitzo tripod.
I hoped that Manfrotto might come up with the goods in the wake of their success with the original Befree with ball-and-socket head and last autumn the Befree Live appeared—with a video pan-and-tilt head. Ted Forbes reviewed it very favourably in his Art of Photography YouTube video. Wex soon had one at my doorstep but before I could try it when I found another reviewer on YouTube who praised it but when I looked at the video he had produced the head appeared to be terrible—really jerky pans which he obviously thought acceptable. I found that this guy has half a million followers for his photography videos but on looking at a few I found them gut-crunchingly irritating. However, whose video to believe?
I set up the camcorder on the tripod and within minutes was producing smooth pans with the ‘fluid’ head of the Befree Live. I used the old trick of using a rubber band to give a gentle, steady pull. Then I tested it to see its ability would hold position (unlike many, particularly ball-and-socket heads) when locked. My extreme test for this was the Nikon P610 at its longest focal length of 1440 mm (full-frame 35 mm equivalent). It held position as I locked on to birds in the garden. It was as good as my full-fat Gitzo head. So I am delighted with it.
Weighing 1.78 kg and, when closed, short enough to go in a backpack it it will be going on our first overseas trip of the year.